LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — To understand the COVID-19 impact on students learning, you first have to look at the time kids have not been in physical classrooms across the country.
"This is going to be, for most kids, the longest time that they haven't been in a school building for their whole education," said Chris Minnich, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Northwest Evaluation Association, or NWEA.
Assuming Clark County School District students return to class in August, they will have been out of school for six months. That's about double the time of a typical summer break, with learning loss typically happening.
Recent models from NWEA and the education software company Achieve3000 show the learning drop off this year is staggering.
"We will see about a 28% slide or learning loss by June 1, and based on prior research that many others have done with normal summer learning loss, we expect that slide to be up to about 49%. We can call that fairly considerable and a little bit tragic," said Stuart Udell, chief executive officer of Achieve3000.
That means students could return to school, remembering just half of what they learned last year. Numbers from the NWEA are a bit more optimistic in reading, with students returning with 70% of their previous year's growth. But in math, only 50%.
"We're worried about the amount of loss we'll see in mathematics more directly than reading because we can pick kids up in reading. We can sort of figure out where they are and advance them. In mathematics, if they miss a key concept, it's going to be really hard, and we need to make sure we're filling those gaps," said Minnich.
Education experts agree - the COVID-19 slide is happening. And for students who already have the most barriers to learning - kids who live in poverty, English language learners, and those in special education - it's hitting the hardest.
"That achievement gap is growing, and it's not surprising because we know we have equity and access issues in America. So, if you are poorer, you have less likelihood of having devices like Chromebooks or Ipads or laptops or desktops, you're less likely to have connectivity. So, before you can even get to teaching and instruction, you have to provide that," Udell said.
CCSD understands this. So far, the district has passed out more than 100,000 chrome books to students - about a third of the district - and set up school buses with high-power wifi. But there are still an estimated 20,000 students without that technology.
"We're still feeding and handing technology to students. Teachers are saying now I have high school students who are taking full-time jobs because mom and dad have lost their jobs. That's where I say you know what let's just be there, be part of that social network for our kids to connect, know that we care. We are preparing for when they come back. We can focus on being kids again and helping them accomplish what they need to do," said CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara.
Dr. Jara said the district is focused on caring for the welfare of families, providing access to technology and exploring opportunities for enrichment, blended learning, and possible face to face opportunities with teachers. All with the health and safety of kids and employees top of mind. While the challenge is big, Dr. Jara said he also remains hopeful.
So, what currently can you do for your kids to help minimize the loss of learning? Education experts agree the simplest and best thing you can do for your kids is to read to them or with them.